Tories enter pact with unionists
Tories enter pact with unionists

The British Conservative Party, under David Cameron, has agreed to form an electoral pact with the Ulster Unionist Party.

The deal will initially see the parties run on a joint ticket in elections to Westminster and European Parliament.

Senior UUP officials backed the political alliance during a meeting of the party’s executive in Belfast on Thursday night.

The parties have still to decide whether the agreement will extend to Assembly and local council elections in the region.

The Ulster Unionists have been a party in decline for well over a decade. In their efforts to shore up their support, party leader Reg Empey has also formed a short-lived political alliance with the political representatives of the UVF, and last month entered into a less formal electoral pact Jim Allister’s extremist Traditional Unionist Voice.

The UUP is now reduced to just one member of parliament, Lady Sylvia Hermon, although its former leader David Trimble remains a relatively powerful figure at Westminster as a member of the Conservative Party.

A UUP spokesman said the new arrangement would operate on the basis of consensus between the parties, but it falls some way short of the suggested merger between the parties.

The decision now paves the way for the Tory leader David Cameron to attend the UUP annual conference next month.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Cameron said: “I am delighted by this agreement between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists.

“It will give all the people of Northern Ireland, for the first time in decades, a new choice in politics.

“For too long Northern Ireland has been outside of the mainstream of politics in the United Kingdom.

“This new political force will help change that, and allow everyone in Northern Ireland to participate fully in political life both in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom,” he added.


Meanwhile, in a sharply conflicting view, the former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has declared that the unification of the two parts of Ireland is an “imperative”, and not an empty aspiration.

He said the sooner the complex and challenging issue was addressed, “the sooner the reality will occur”.

Mr Ahern was speaking at the book launch of ‘Countdown to Unity: Debating Irish Reunification’ by Richard Humphreys.

“I believe in a United Ireland,” he said.

“While we deleted the old articles 2 and 3, the republican and nationalist objective of Irish unity, based on consent, remains a fundamental feature of the political philosophy of our Constitution and of this State.

“It is no mere empty aspiration. It is an imperative.”

He said: “I believe that the sooner we engage in the process of addressing Irish unity, in all its complexities, with all of its challenges, and the many opportunities it will present, the sooner the reality will occur.”

Mr Ahern’s comments are in line with a tradition of Fianna Fail politicians expressing more nationalistic views when out of office. But he said the debate about Irish unity needed to be conducted on a “rational level”.

The “ruling out” of physical force to secure unification could not be an excuse for a failure of dialogue on the subject.

He added that the “republican goal of unity by consent” required that “a majority of the people of Northern Ireland” be persuaded of the merits of reunification.

And he said the 1998 Good Friday Agreement should remain the basis for the governance of the North of Ireland, “pending Irish unity”.

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